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“…Characters have a way to deciding which direction you take…”

Readers of a recent Stream of Babbling column will realize I’m late to jump on the Fade From Blue bandwagon. I’m loving this series, as evidenced by that column (plus the review of issue 6 in this week’s Offhand Opinions). Fortunately I recently caught up with writer Myatt Murphy and we were able to discuss this current series as well as other aspects of the Second 2 Some Studios work. I appreciate Myatt sharing his time and I hope you enjoy the discussion as much as I did.

O’Shea: Before discussing Fade, two questions. With the release of the Two over Ten TPB, has the Fade fan base that may have not been on the ground floor, gone back and appreciated this work, thereby giving the work a whole new audience that may have not sought it out upon it’s miniseries initial release?

Murphy: Definitely. If sales at shows and through our website are any indication of what’s happening at stores that carry both Fade From Blue and the Two Over Ten trade, I’d have to say yes, since many people just discovering Fade and coming for back issues are also buying Two Over Ten at the same time. Then again, ever since Two Over Ten was released in trade paperback form, we’ve also had a lot more attention drawn to it by producers who feel it’s a natural X-File-esque show for television. So I think it’s a Fade/Trade combo that may be working together to get people into the story.

Two Over Ten, as you know, is a much darker story than Fade From Blue with very little humor present at all, but there’s a reason for that. When Scott Dalrymple (the artist of Two Over Ten, Far From Saints and Fade From Blue) started working on other comics, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could work within different genres We’ve got a lot of other stories we’ll be exploring in the future, some steeped in science fiction, others in historical fiction a few in horror and many others being real-life drama pieces. So, hopefully, we’ll attract an entirely new audience to Fade From Blue in the same way Fade has attracted a new audience to Two Over Ten.

O’Shea: What’s been the feedback toward the Far From Saints one-shot? (I for one would love to see more!)

Murphy: Incredible! Far From Saints definitely gave our readers a taste of what Scott and I could create if we leaned our efforts more towards sci-fi. In fact, we’ve had a lot of reviewers wondering what other weird concepts we had to bring to the table after reading it, which was flattering to read.

As for doing more of them, we’re not planning anything immediately for the future but we’ll see. I definitely wrote FFS (just as I did Two Over Ten) with definite closure, yet with the potential to continue it if there was enough interest. Plus, as well received as Fade From Blue has been over the past eight months it’s been out, Far From Saints ended up overall with the most flawless reviews of any single book we’ve ever done. So it definitely has sequel written all over it.

O’Shea: The “sisters” lives are clearly complicated (and have been for awhile). How much of their lives/personalities/histories was mapped out before the series even began, and how much have you been “working up” along the way?

Murphy: A great deal of their issues/problems were drawn up before the series began. There are four major plots running through the series through each sister, even though some plots (such as Iya’s suicidal depression and Marit finding the killer of her mother) have a lot more weight to them than others (Christa dealing with Herpes and Elisa dealing with her bad dates). Still, each of these mini-dramas will have life-altering effects when they all get resolved literally at the same time in issue #10. These story points have always been the underpinnings of Fade.

However, you’re right. Some things have definitely been ‘worked’ along the way. Fade started as a much darker, harsher series than it evolved into. There wasn’t as much humor as there is now, which is what we’re told is one of its’ strongest features. What’s odd is that Two Over Ten started as a comedy (if you can believe that!) then morphed into a darker piece. I think any author will agree that you always need to lock down where you want to go, but sometimes, the characters have a way of deciding which direction you take to get there. That’s been Fade so far. I know where I want it to go, and sometimes, it doesn’t feel like I’m steering the ship as much as they are.

O’Shea: There have already been a couple of flashback scenes involving the sisters, but I wonder will there ever be any flashbacks revealing the lives of the respective mothers?

Murphy: Not in the first story arc (issues #1-10), although you will see what wasn’t revealed in issue #2 when Marit first discovers her mother’s body. Issue #8 will have that same flashback of the day she came upstairs to fins her mom’s body, but this time around, we’re filling in a lot of the visual pieces that weren’t there before. Personally, I want to eventually do 4 separate issues that would be one-shot origin issues of each sister, with each ending with how they were absorbed into the composite family they eventually become.

O’Shea: Is there a predetermined conclusion to this series (i.e. the discovery of their father) or could you go on indefinitely with this series if you so desired?

Murphy: Yes. Much like Two Over Ten, the story arc is written to have closure, so you’ll know what happened (for the most part) to their missing father and why their mothers were murdered, yet it will still remain very open-ended so that it can easily go on. Not ALL the secrets are revealed at the end of #10, but enough questions will be answered to propel the storyline (especially for Marit) in a different direction. We’re toying with the idea of adding an epilogue in the trade paperback of #1-#10 (which wouldn’t come out until 2004) that shows the sisters many years in the future. It’s already written and the two people privy to it were shocked at all the outcomes, yet it only made them more motivated to find out how each sister got to that place in life. It wouldn’t ruin anything, so we still may do it.

O’Shea: When you started the series, was there one sister that you clearly favored over the others? Now with a number of issues under your belt if there is a favoritism toward one, has it shifted to one of the other sisters?

Murphy: You know, I’ve never thought of that possibility until now but no, I’d have to say I’m too attached to each character to really have a favorite. But I think that’s because I know where each character is heading. Right now, it may seem like Elisa and especially Christa are my favorites because of their airplay in the first five issues. However, Iya and Marit have a lot of pain behind them that’s going to start showing itself in the later issues, so knowing what territory they are both about to embark on, I’m equally in love with writing those two sisters just as much.

I try not to give one sister more time than the rest when I write Fade, that way, it doesn’t become one character’s comic with a bunch of supporting characters by default. Generally, I’ll try to lay down a basic formula of devoting 6 pages each to each sister in every 24-page story, but I don’t let that limit me to some of the storytelling elements we need to use to move the story along. For example, Fade #6 has 10 pages devoted to Marit and the rest are spun around Elisa, even though Iya and Christa come into play in parts of those pages as well. But I’m trying to be fair to each character, because the way I see it, each one is someone elses’ favorite too.

O’Shea: Who is the hardest sister to write?

Murphy: I’d say Marit. The other three are very tight composites of people I’ve known as either ex-girlfriends, co-workers or friends of mine, so I just imagine what they would say during certain circumstances to let those three characters write themselves. But Marit was born out of one friends experiences and someone I saw on the street in Manhattan who looked just like her. The personality isn’t really based on anyone in particular. Because of that, I try to write her while thinking of what I know she’s gone through (including situations that the reader doesn’t know yet) and that takes more time.

O’Shea: What is it about Scott Dalrymple’s style that makes him perfect for Fade?

Murphy: Besides being the easiest person on the planet to work with (anyone that knows Scott has to agree he’s probably the most humble artist you will ever meet in any field), Scott’s just a real natural when it comes to expressing emotion on paper and thinking of unique point of view. I wanted to do a comic that was unlike what was already out there. Because Scott’s influences come from an entirely different direction than most comic artists, he brought onboard a style that no one can really compare dead-on to any other artist. Scott’s also got a rare talent of having a photographic memory, which makes it easy to point out stuff we see in New York and other places and say “Hey! See that? Let’s put that in that scene with Elisa in issue #9.” It can be a month later and I’ll remind him of a specific object or person and he’s able to draw it exactly as it was in perfect detail. I’m telling you, if he could count cards the way he can remember exact images, we’d both be in another profession somewhere in Vegas.

O’Shea: Could you imagine trying to pull this series off without the comedy element? Is it essential to counterbalance the tragedy rooted in the book’s foundation?

Murphy: Never. It would never feel right, because I don’t believe that’s true reality. I’ve always been struck by the fact that even during the most extreme examples of tragedy, jokes are still told and life continues to go on for everyone else around the person hit with turmoil. That’s true reality… the world goes on and there’s always a mix of emotions, both happy and sad, happening simultaneously. In Fade From Blue, the reality that their mothers are all dead is nine years in the past and as tragic as those facts are, they’ve simply adapted and moved on like anyone else would. Sometimes that’s not always the case, which is why Marit’s character exists. She’s the only one that has never let herself go.

Also, the thing to note is that much of the drama of Fade is only taking place with two of the four sisters presently. Marit will be clueing Christa and Elisa in with #6… and that’s when some of the comedic element will start to be less present in the book… but not by much. I think everyone knows someone who uses sarcasm as their way of dealing with pain. Christa is definitely that kind of woman, which means her need to lash out in that way (which many readers seem to love) is only going to get worse (in a good way).

O’Shea: How did you come up with the concept of Christa’s text pieces (and how much of some of that material is influenced by your own experience in the unique world of freelance journalism)?

Murphy: Ha! They’re not as original as you might think. Believe it or not, those articles are legitimate articles that I had written years ago for magazines such as Cosmo, Glamour, Marie Claire, etc. that I own the rights to. I wanted to show the truth about what it’s like to be a freelance writer, which is why I like throwing those sappy articles in there. As a reader, you know Christa is the exact opposite of the girl-paranoid stuff she has to write to earn a living, so I think it’s fun to kind of expose the anti-Sex In The City reality that truly is relationship writing.

My work in magazines definitely influences how I write Christa, but what’s odd is that I think Fade may actually be influencing mainstream magazines. In #1, which came out in May 2002, Christa mentions an article idea to her editor called “What his cell phone really says about him!” I recently saw that the March 2003 issue of Cosmo has the SAME coverline in the upper right hand corner. Coincidence or a Fade reader? You can bet Christa will be watching closely!

O’Shea: Also, in terms of her somewhat conceivably high profile nature as a journalist, is she the sister that poses the greatest risk of getting the “family” exposed?

Murphy: Oddly enough, it’s Elisa that will prove to be the problem, since if her aspirations of becoming a star are ever realized, their lives would be exposed to a curious fact-hungry media. Being a celebrity is like being Icarus, the higher you fly, the more chances of having your wings burned off.

Being a magazine journalist myself, I can tell you right now that Christa is definitely in one of the lowest profile media jobs, since the only name-brand celebs that come out of magazines are the people at the top of the masthead. No one keeps track of writers and being involved in the media, she also has a close ear to the ground in the same way Marit does as a police officer. Writing is also one of the few professions where using a fake name is entirely acceptable.

However, I definitely agree with you that it seems impossible that these girls could be able to hide for so long. That’s not a slip on our part…it’s part of the plot itself. I can’t say anymore than that without blowing the first story arc, but you are dangerously close to seeing something that most readers haven’t picked up on yet (you’re good, Tim.)

O’Shea: Could you envision the book working if it had been all “brothers” instead of all “sisters”?

Murphy: Hmm… you know, I never gave it much thought in that direction. I knew what I wanted to do a book that starred several female protagonists and I was originally leaning more towards three. But when I started pulling it together and it became four, I thought that may make people think Spice Girls or Sex and the City unless I tossed in a brother or two. But the real point I wanted to explore was the relationship of a few women and their missing father. One becomes just like him, another seeks relationships with father figures that aren’t healthy for her, another becomes bitter on men entirely and the last hides in a world of make-believe acting. Yet all four are similar, in that they all stay busy so they can’t ever focus on the pain. I’m not sure if having a male figure in there would have complimented or deteriorated that important fact.

I feel Dag kind of serves as how I would have written a brother, had I added one in.

O’Shea: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss that I may have not asked?

Murphy: I just want to thank all the retailers, distributors, reviewers and readers that have been so supportive of all our projects for the past year and a half. We never really get a chance to say ‘thank you’ except at shows and such, but without your help, we couldn’t create the projects we feel we need to get out of ourselves. I’m proud of what comics can achieve and the stories they can share, so it’s really amazing to have so many people back you up when you’re working on making your own dreams a reality.

I also think that anyone reading this also obviously reads comics, and that anyone that reads comics wants to make their own. That’s why I encourage anyone reading this to get out there and figure out some way to share the ideas they also have in their head. Four years ago, Two Over Ten, Far From Saints and Fade From Blue were just ideas floating around in an idea book I had. Today, Diamond has certified “Fade From Blue” cool ‘four’ times out of only six issues and called us the ‘next evolution to Strangers in Paradise”. We’ve had Wizard make us one of this years’ buzz books in Wizard Edge (We’re even listed in their price guide between Fables and Fantastic Four.) CBG and other reviewers have graded many of our books with A’s over other titles that I think are better than we are. All these terrific experiences would never have happened if we didn’t try… and I think the greatest stories to be found in comic books have yet to be told, because those that have those stories haven’t entered the industry yet. So get busy, so you can leave me and the rest of the industry speechless.

Coming Soon:
Interview with Panel Two editor Nat Gertler